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Theyen Kile

Hist 193
Prof. Trouth
3 May, 2016
The other effects of Plague
The Great plague of London is seen by many as this disease that swept through Europe
time and again leaving nothing but nearly countless numbers of dead in its wake. The plague was
more than that to the people at the time however, men like Samuel Pepys had a life to live and
couldnt stop it because of an outbreak of disease, William Boghurst saw the plague as
something treatable and understandable, Nehemiah Wallington saw the plague as divine
punishment brought down on man by an angry God, and Paul Slack observes how plague has in
some ways benefited public health.
Slack states that the plague of London in addition to the numerous other plagues that
plagued Europe over an extended period of time allowed governments to develop ways of coping
with them and in essence developing some of the first public heath care policy as we know it
today. Bubonic Plague hit London in 1665 and did not stop into 1666 for Slack incidents of
plague show how the government evolves to handle plague (Pepys). Slack, in his article
Responses to Plague in Early Modern Europe: The Implications of Public Health states one of
the main reasons Europe could develop and grow because of the influence of plague saying
First, there is the fact that plague recurred again and again in the same places, over centuries. In
London, for example, there were at least seventeen outbreaks of plague between 1500 and the

last outbreakthe so-called "Great Plague of London"in 1665 he goes on to say that some of
these incidents of plague that occurred in the same areas were milder than others thus allowing
officials to learn how to cope with the smaller outbreaks for when larger ones came around
(Slack). Slack also says that plague by its nature was predictable, that the people of the time
knew that it would spread from ports, to cities, and from the cities to towns. Plague also
disproportionately affected the poor because the rich often had the funds to escape. Even though
the doctors of the time did not understand exactly how the plague was transmitted from person to
person (via fleas). The medieval world would struggle but learn how to cope with plague as their
familiarity with it grew with experience.
Slack continues by making his points of how people came to see and cope with plague.
Slack makes the point that plague was seen as a scourge brought about by God because of the
sins of the people saying, In the Christian tradition, by contrast, plague was a punishment,
which ought not to have been necessary, for sins which should be identified and rooted out
Wallington confirms this and will be shown as evidence later (Slack). This view could explain
what doctors like Boghurst could not, why some people got sick and others didnt. The
government and people didnt need to know exactly how the plague worked to know how to
fight it Slack writes that the two most reliable ways they used to combat plague at the time were,
flight from infected townsa sensible precaution, and one which was recommended by most
medical writers as the only sure preservative; and second, a hard-headed and sometimes ruthless
care for the preservation of self this preservation of self led to the government quarantining of
homes, in some cases entire villages, and by the 17th century shipping routes (Slack). Slack
makes a point of government officials often staying when plague erupts, after they have already
sent away their wives and children. Pepys diary provides evidence for measures such as these

and will be talked about later in this paper. In many cases these measures did not work because
of a lack of willingness from the people to stay locked up and a push back from the church when
governments tried to stop public gatherings and these measures were attempted (with similar
kinds of backlash) by the English during the Great plague of London in 1665 (Slack). Slack
proves that in the end that plague did not only bring about death on a grandiose scale, it brought
about beneficial reform that lead to the survival of thousands more than would have survived
otherwise.
Samuel Pepys is best known for his account of life during the Great plague of
London. Samuel Pepys was a civil servant in London during the Great plague of London. The
plague was concerning to this upper-middle class gentleman but not so much of concern that he
left outright, his first mention of the plague came in May 24, 1665 plague growing upon us in
this towne; and of remedies against it: some saying one thing, some another. So home to dinner
this is the statement of a man who did not seemed overly concerned (Pepys). That said, in the
coming months he followed the plague closely and on a regular basis would record the death
tolls from the plague that past week and where it had since spread to. By June 8th he warned his
wife that a plague was spreading but had not yet reached them (Pepys). Some think that he took
the plague lightly, choosing to party and drink during this hard time but the words of his journal
tell a different (if only in his mind) story of the man. On June 10th, 1665 Pepys wrote most
grimly about the plagues spread saying, to my great trouble, hear that the plague is come into
the City (though it hath these three or four weeks since its beginning been wholly out of the
City); but where should it begin but in my good friend and neighbours, Dr. Burnett, in
Fanchurch Street: which in both points troubles me mightily. These are the words of a man
privately fearing for his friends and for the city as a whole (Pepys). As a relatively well-off

Englishman he had the funds to secure his familys safety. By July 5th of that year the plague had
spread to the point where he sent his wife to Woolwich (Pepys). In wake of all of this, the
evidence presented thus far is to say that he was concerned but not so concerned as to go out and
drink. Pepys did this throughout the plague, continuing on with his social life with the friends
until the plague became more severe in the fall of 1665 and by going on trips to places like
Woolwich that didnt become infected by the plague until much later. Even for the upper middleclass like Samuel Pepys, the plague was still a private if not public concern and despite this men
like Sammuel Pepys stayed to keep law and order during the times of plague.
Slack makes several points in his argument that plague was at least partially beneficial
due to the revolutionary public health programs brought about by it. Pepys often saw the
methods of plague control as described by Slack, one such case he recorded in his journal on
June 7th, writing I did in Drury Lane see two or three houses marked with a red cross upon the
doors, and Lord have mercy upon us writ there this quote bespeaking the idea of containing
the plague by quarantining the household infected (Pepys). Travel was also restricted once the
plagues intensity grew, Pepys writing on August 20th, 1665 I could not get my waterman to go
elsewhere for fear of the plague this particular travel restriction was more so one put upon the
boatmen by themselves but none the less supports the idea of controlling plague through limited
travel (Pepys). Lastly, when the plague was near its height there was a near complete breakdown
of regulations such as these and Pepys records in his diary on September 14th, 1665 I did
endeavour all I could to talk with as few as I could, there being now no observation of shutting
up of houses infected, that to be sure we do converse and meet with people that have the plague
upon them. It was this point in time when Pepys chose to shut himself up in fear of the plague
(Pepys). Pepys proves that the Great plague of London may have been feared by the people of

the time but it became another factor of life when then they still had to continue working in order
to keep living.
William Boghurst saw the plague as something that could be combated and dealt with in
an easy fashion. Boghurst was an apothecary during the Great plague of London. He made
observances to the plagues symptoms and clearly understood what a infected individual looked
like remarking in his book Loimographia :an Account of the Great Plague of London in the Year
1665, 5. Their Buboes or Carbuncles falling on a suddaine which is part of a list of symptoms
he provides for identifying plague (Boghurst 22). He did not know exactly how the plague was
spread however; but had a knowledge that it would spread often with proximity writing 56.
The plague happening in a blood or generation, usually went through the whole kindred, though
living in severall places, which was the cause it swept away so many whole familyes" knowing
the symptoms and having an idea of how close you have to be with the infected can help in
figuring out a cure. This is not to say Boghursts theories were right, while Yersenia Pestis does
move from the blood to the lymph system it is only spread by the fleas who drink the blood, he
did not know this and like many others could only guess. He also had trouble sorting out the
different symptoms of smallpox and plague because the two often occurred together 59.
Shutting up of houses, wickednesses, confident, ignorant mountebanks, overhasty cutting and
burning soares, indulging too much to present ease, removeing servants and poore people to
Pest-houses and to other houses in their sickenesse, overstifling and weakening people with too
much sweating, overhasty going abroade into the cold, and preposterous Physick killed many.
60. Many people had the spotted feaver and the Plague both together his statement also provides
another example of the quarantining method being used by the people of that time to combat the
plague (page 25). As for treatment, the only real cure he could offer is the one the wealthy took

the greatest advantage of that is to flee infected areas if at all possible. His cure does have one
other right thing to do or in this case not to do, Boghurst writes The feaver I told you before
must not bee much meddled with at the begining for fear of hindring the cure of the Plague for
you must not purge, bleed, nor vomit nor glister, which you doe in other Feavers he spoke out
against the use of purging which up to this point was a long use medical practice (Boghurst 82).
Ultimately Boghurst, like many others, could do little to stop or treat the spread of the plague as
it revenged England and Europe but none the less tried.
For those who were not satisfied with the theories of doctors when it came to plague,
religion was often the answer. Men like Nehemiah Wallington blamed society for bringing down
the wrathful hand of God upon them. He wrote about earlier plagues often, those writings are
being pulled from The Notebooks of Nehemiah Wallington, 1618-1654: A Selection. His
treatment of plague as a puritan during the 17th century is no different than how the church
viewed the actions of the people and government during the Great plague of London. Wallington
saw the plague as being a punishment from God writing, Because the nation stubbornly
persisted in wicked ways, God was provoked to send warnings of imminent wrathful judgment
and punishment: fires outbreaks of plague blaming others for plague and calling for them to
repent (Wallington 7). Blaming society is a perfect explanation for plague because it provides an
explanation for why innocents get sick, die, and confirms for Christians the theory of
predestination. He also saw plague as Gods natural way of judging mankind, The ordinary
judgments with wich the Lord bringeth upon a land or a notion are especially three, war, famine,
and pestilence that these punishments were a natural punishment for mans behavior (Wallington
52). Wallington called for ministers to stop their flock from dancing feasting playing Sabbath
breaking because it would draw downe more wrath and plague upon us claiming repentance

as the only option during a time of death and disease (125). The church fought against the
quarantining practices of the day because the ministers could not give sermons and the sick were
being left to die in their homes. In a time when almost every doctor said something different in
regards to plague, for many, the church seemed to have the consistency they were looking for in
a time of chaos.
Regardless of the circumstance, whether you were upper middle-class like Pepys, a
devout Christian like Wallington, or an apothecary like Boghurst one did what they thought was
best when it came to surviving plague. Those three prove that Slacks theory, that the plague
actually provided a catalyst for the start of public health aid from the government. One can run or
hide from plague but during the 17th century once someone got infected they could expect
nothing but high chance of death compounded by a blind hope for survival. For the survivors like
Samuel Pepys who avoided the plague, the end brought massive relief and a return to normalcy.

Works Cited
"The Diary of Samuel Pepys." The Diary of Samuel Pepys. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2016
http://www.pepysdiary.com/
Samuel Pepys Diary entries will be used for an above average mans account of the plague of
London. His diary entries give a common perspective, an example would be what he writes on
June 10th 1665 The plague continues to infiltrate the town with Sam seeing two or three houses
marked with a red cross upon the doors, and Lord have mercy upon us writ there. He proves
a good source for gleaming light on the common people who died from the disease.

Boghurst, William. Loimographia :an Account of the Great Plague of London in the Year 1665.
London. London: Shaw and Sons, 1894. Harvard Mirador Viewer. Harvard University.
Web. 30 Mar. 2016.
http://iiif.lib.harvard.edu/manifests/view/drs:7337307$8i
An Account of the Great Plague of London in the year 1665, by William Boghurst will be used to
shine a 17th century medical view onto what we now call Yersenia Pestis. During the plague of
London there were tons of theories and cures concerning plague. This source will be used as an
apothecary and general practitioners detailed account of his experiences and the spread of
plague.

Wallington, Nehemiah. The Notebooks of Nehemiah Wallington, 1618-1654: A Selection.


Aldershot: Ashgate Limited, 2007. Google Books. Google.com. Web. 30 Mar. 2016
https://books.google.com/books?
id=mliwmfjahXAC&printsec=frontcover&dq=wallington&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjA2pS
A9dzLAhVU42MKHY8yDJMQ6AEIIzAB#v=onepage&q=wallington&f=false
The Notebooks of Nehemiah Wallington, 1618-1654: A Selection by Nehemiah Wallington will
be used for a more religious view on the plague of London. The clergy played a part and often
did all they could to help the sick, especially in a time where no one really knew what was
causing the pestilence. The following quote was taken out of The Notebooks of Nehemiah
Wallington, 1618-1654: A Selection depicts the words of a concerned clergymen and provides a
prime example of other quotes that will be used yet that in these dolefull daies of plague and
pestilence suppresse neglect all publike fasting preaching and praying which now if ever cried up
and practiced.

Slack, Paul, Responses To Plague In Early Modern Europe: The Implications Of Public Health."
Social Research 55.3 (1988): 433-453. SocINDEX with Full Text. Web. 6 Apr. 2016
This is a modern source that gives a good source of general copping mechanisms for
plague as it ravaged Europe over time. The focus will stay on the Plague of London and as such
the information pulled from this article will reflect that. Slack discusses how countries and their
citizens coped with plague, that they countries provided relief for their citizens if they agreed to
quartertone and the smaller aspects of government struggled to handle the massive numbers of
people affected by plague.